Jessica Pimentel on ‘OITNB’s Season 4: “It’s a Pressure Cooker, Eventually Something’s Gotta Give”

If the trailer for the upcoming fourth season of Orange is the New Black is any indication the Latinas at Litchfield are about to be pushed to the limit. Our favorite moment and one which we can’t wait to see unfold? When Maria (played by Jessica Pimentel) heads over to Piper (Taylor Schilling) and threatens her with a deliciously acidic “I am going to bury you!”

Wanting to get more info on what’s ahead for Maria and the rest of Litchfield’s Spanish Harlem, Remezcla hopped on the phone with Pimentel to see what she’s been up to since we last talked to her. Avoiding major spoilers — encouraging us instead to binge watch the season as soon as it drops on June 17 — Pimentel was coy as to specifics but did share that she thinks it’s the best season yet. Just like us, she cannot wait to watch it all the way through, though she admits she’ll likely re-binge watch the series to brush up on the many characters and story lines that populate the wildly popular Netflix show.

During our chat we talked about Maria, who’s reeling from depression after giving up her baby in prison, but also touched on the camaraderie on the set of the show, the positive message behind her heavy metal band’s music, and how she earned her nickname (which also doubles as her Twitter and Instagram handle) “The Crusher.” Check out some highlights below.

On Where Maria Is Right Now

I feel so bad for her. She’s literally been through hell and back. Just from the beginning, her focus was on the pregnancy and what was gonna become of her daughter. She really was all 100% into being the best possible mother she could be. She’d been reading magazines and what to do when the child was born, and making sure that, you know, she’d look the same to let the kid recognize you during visits; to keep talking to them. She is all about her child. And when in season 3 that gets taken away from her she fell into this great depression. She’d already been depressed the whole way through. But she’d been fighting it — which I admire very much.

“What happens when that one piece of hope, of your humanity gets taken away from you?”

She fought so much and there’s this one moment where you could see how Maria could turn, could change, when Daya says she’s going to give away her baby. This after Maria had given her this coaching session on what to do when the baby comes (how to push, to use a pillow for comfort) and then she’s gonna give it away? Maria rips her apart for that. When, in all honesty, Daya is also trying to give her child the best possible life. But since Maria didn’t see that as appropriate she snapped at her. And at the end of season 3 you see her dealing with her postpartum depression, with her abandonment — being completely alone. The only thing that had kept her going all along, her one hope, was her child and that gets taken away. So what happens when that one piece of hope, of your humanity gets taken away from you? You become someone else. And that’s what’s happening in season 4. She has to figure out a new gameplan for herself to survive and to get out of there as soon as possible.

On What To Expect In Season 4

“This season is like a pressure cooker and eventually something’s gotta give.”

I’d say the main theme is overcrowding and dealing with a commercially-run prison system, and what happens when people lose their basic human rights. Losing something as simple as having your own space. You’re going to see them sort of stacked up against each other and the tension that that creates. You’re going to see characters who don’t normally interact having to, being forced to. And this season is like a pressure cooker. That’s kind of what is happening this season. We’re in this pressure cooker with all these ingredients that aren’t always getting along and eventually something’s gotta give. Whether it’s us or the guards or the system.

On another note you will see some backstories this year that will break your heart. There’s some epic work being done by my castmates that I’m very proud of them for what they’ve managed to pull off — never mind the writing, the directing, the whole crew! These stories were already great but the work that some of my castmates did is really really outstanding. I can’t wait to watch it myself.

On Being Part Of a Supportive and Generous Ensemble

“There is no room in a cast like this to be a diva or to be difficult.”

This cast is really made up of people who have worked hard; who are sincere and humble. There is no room in a cast like this to be a diva or to be difficult. Because there are so many stories we all recognize the importance and weight of each one. Even though the focus may go from one to the other to the other — this may not be your moment — you know it will come back around. Even if you’re just in the background, just stirring a pot, you’re still telling the story.

We also have to work really long hours together and spend lots of time with each other, dealing with very dark subject matter so it’s natural [to get along so well]. I feel pretty much that, except for one or two people in the show, this show kind of changed everyone’s lives at the same time. For the most part, we’re all fairly unknown. I mean, you have people like Kate Mulgrew who’s been around and had been cast in the Starship Enterprise (which is unbelievable! I’m a big Trekkie, a big dork so I can’t believe that I get to work with her). You have these heavy hitters who have been around for a very long time but then you have people who have very little acting experience, or have very few credits in their resume. But then this show literally overnight put us all into another level. We all had to go through that together so I think that’s also why we get along. It’s basic human decency, too, you know?

On Balancing Her Metal Band With Her Newfound Orange Fans

“This is sooo weird! Why is her face all painted?! Why is she screaming like a demon? OMG!”

In the very beginning I tried to keep them separate because they’re so different. I didn’t want one to take over or be judged because of other. They’re very different sides of myself. People, for example, are shocked that I don’t have Maria’s accent. They don’t know that that’s something that I worked on to create her. They just assume, oh she’s from Brooklyn and first-generation, that must be how she speaks. But it’s not! [Laughter] So we tried to keep them separate and you know, I’ve found that Orange fans aren’t fans of the metal thing. Mostly because it’s very heavy metal. It’s not like rock and roll. It’s very extreme and it’s not for everyone. It’s a bit of a shock for Orange fans to see that. When they see videos or pictures they’re like “This is sooo weird! Why is her face all painted?! Why is she screaming like a demon? OMG!” It throws them off because they know me as Maria. Sometimes they come out to the shows and they want to see Maria but Maria does not go to shows. [Laughter] But once they let go of that concept and they open their minds they’ll see what I’m trying to do.

Even though it’s a very heavy format, very extreme, and it seems to be dark and sinister it comes from a very good place. It’s all about meditation and controlling your mind, defeating obstacles in your life and in your past, in your consciousness. It’s about going to the next level, exploring spirituality and compassion, wisdom, and learning how to let go of harmful behavior. All of these things are messages in our music.

On Being “The Crusher”

Well, before “The Crusher” it was “Trouble!” [Laughter] It is a nickname given to me by my brother in music. In my old band called “Everybody Gets Hurt” he used to say that, the way I presented myself, I made it clear that no one could take advantage of me. Guys would try to approach me and I would just crush them, like “you’re not worthy.” They’d step up to the plate and they just couldn’t handle it because I’m very aggressive, and secure, and confident. So he’d warn them against me because I was the crusher. I’m an independent person, never one to look for someone to “complete me” — I am complete! But then it became more than just relationships: about being on the microphone, on an instrument, that whatever I’d want, I’d crush it. Not doing it half-assed but with all your heart. That’s the way to approach obstacles that are in your way: you just crush them.